Amy Fraser / @fr.amy – founder of @HeyOKREAL, connecter and storyteller is committed to giving you the courage and connection you need to take charge of your life. Here at Emma Lewisham, we are dedicated to helping the women in our community glow from the inside as well as the outside. We asked Amy to join us on the journal to talk about balance and why you’re better off striving for something better.
Over the past 6 years I’ve interviewed and coached hundreds of successful women. Whether they stride through cities or live by beaches, are mothers or childless, demure or brazen, entrepreneurs or nine-to-fivers—no matter how different, how vast their backgrounds or routines or careers or relationships or however else we measure the calibre of ones womanhood—not a single woman has once said to me: My success is result of balance. My life is satisfyingly arranged in perfectly portioned, bento-boxed bliss.
I like to ask women about balance to confirm my own hypothesis (bred from my insecurity of never being good enough) that surely, balance is not a thing. That surely, we are all just doing the best we can, trying to make it look like we’re not trying as hard as we actually are, flourishing in one area of our lives while another falls apart. To my self-esteem’s delight, I have found that while there are many glamorous creatures who pull off the insatiably soothing facade of balance, even they—the monotone-IG-grid-esque breed—are still juggling balls in the background, trying to get on with life, dealing with their own drama like the rest of us.
And then this: I can unequivocally claim that the women who are most impressive, whose lives are full and thriving—are the ones who’ve had a wild ride. Who had a plan which didn’t work out, so they built something better. Who are marred with sacrifice and undereye circles and whose laundry is never complete and they don’t exercise as much as they should or meditate even though they have all the apps. Because they are busy being brilliant. There is a lot of mess that comes with being brilliant. We should start getting used to it. Why be balanced when you can be brilliant, after all?
One of my favourite answers to the balance question was from my interview with Stella Bugbee, editor of The Cut:
“You will die trying to have it all. You have to pick the things that are most important to you, and work is one of the most important things to me, so I prioritise it. Balance is great if that’s what you’re into, but I also think it’s something that can trip you up. It sets another impossible standard. I’m probably really imbalanced, but I’m fine with it. I do my best. I think that some of the most interesting people are imbalanced. I don’t think you get really good results by trying to do everything. You have to focus on the things you want to get really good results from and that is the only way to get better at those things. Sacrifice is part of that. I think balance is an impossible, aspirational lie.”
And before the wellness people go wild in the comments—this is not to say that the positive implications of balance should be undermined. Self-care, looking after your mental and physical health, not scrolling until your eyeballs burn—these are all valid, good, crucial things! The point is that balance, or at least the rhetoric around balance, has—as Stella said—become yet another thing that women are supposed to achieve, along with the rest of the ridiculous requirements which we (and society) measure our worth upon.
I’ve said before that we need to forget about balance, and instead learn to thrive in chaos. That this is a far more important skill. That balance is akin to effortlessness. Which is to say, ‘tis bullshit. Do you know how long it takes to create an effortless look? Of course you do. I personally need 45 minutes of putting makeup on to look like I don’t have makeup on (but in the good way). And I’m going to take a wild guess that you’ve spent more time perusing nude lip colour and the perfect white cotton t-shirt than you would ever admit outside of the group chat. Balance is the same. It takes a lot of energy to force harmony into lives that are inherently messy. Bless the mess, I say.
Here’s how you can put this terrifying (yet liberating!) ethos into practice:
1. Focus on peace. Not perfection.
Instead of thinking: I didn’t do my workout / jade roller / intelligent literature book / today! I am a top knotted failure! Think: what is going to bring me peace right now? And do that. For me, my self-care is my people. I get a huge amount of peace from hugging my kid or talking with a girlfriend. I fit in workouts and eating well and all the rest when I can. But I know that my non-negotiable element of life is the health of my relationships. They are where I put most of my energy and where I receive most of it. What does that look like for you? Not what you should be doing, but what you truly need?
2. Sometimes you’ll have to slay a dragon.
This is when you are IN IT. Being IN IT can range from being in full beast mode at work for an important project, to being in the throes of the newborn phase, to painful stuff like going through a divorce, or when a loved one is sick. When you are slaying dragons, balance can go on ice. Get through it—however you can (ideally excluding harmful coping mechanisms like drinking your way through it). If you’re slaying a dragon, now is not the time to chastise yourself for the lack of balance in your life. Forget the frills. Do what makes you strong.
3. What does your brilliant look like?
If you were to throw yourself into your most brilliant being—what would that mean? Maybe some late nights, maybe some routine interruptions, likely stress that comes with creating something that has deep, long-lasting reward. Burnout is unsustainable. But there are certain things that require us to stop clambering for balance and instead, roll up our sleeves and start building. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Why be the woman-laughing-with-salad on Getty Images when you can be, I don’t know, anything but that?